Column: Blue Moon 2018

Photo: Dennis Jozefowicz

This past Friday, July 31, I sat outside looking for the rare Blue Moon, the second full moon this month. Unfortunately, the cloudy and rainy night hampered my viewing, but gave me the opportunity to relax after a very busy week here in Wilton Manors.

As I sat in my yard listening to the rain, my mind began to wander, and I started to think about how things might be different here in Wilton Manors when the next Blue Moon occurs in 2018. That’s right, three years until another Blue Moon.

That’s why one should seize the opportunity to embrace this special night as a time to step out of one’s comfort zone and wonder what changes are needed, what change in direction, what change in action is needed to move ahead to a better place before the next Blue Moon.

One safe bet for life in Wilton Manors 2018 will see the Church property on 26th Street finally developed. After years of the East Neighborhood Association’s fighting any plans put forth for this site, the developer should be submitting plans for high-end townhomes that would not be rental units. Other development projects might include major plans for properties along Andrews Avenue once the city moves ahead with zoning changes and redevelopment plans put forth by the zoning study recently completed. The Complete Streets Program, if approved by our City Commission, might offer major funding by the MPO, so that the entire city can benefit from additional bike lanes, pedestrian crosswalks, sidewalks, and safer roadways.

The elephant in the room is still Wilton Drive. What does this community need to do now to make the changes we want before the next Blue Moon? First and foremost, we need to move out of the past and stop the blame game. Of course FDOT and the State wanted to give the city jurisdiction of Wilton Drive a few years back.

Thank heavens our city and our elected officials chose not to move ahead at that time, since the entire financial burden would have fallen unto the backs of every resident of Wilton Manors. Not only would we have had the financial responsibility of Wilton Drive, but would have had to agree to take financial responsibility for the entire stretch of State Road 811, from Sunrise Blvd to Oakland Park Blvd, because the state would only release jurisdiction from those two main points.

Fort Lauderdale and Oakland Park agreed to a jurisdiction change for their portions of the State Road, but only if Wilton Manors picked up the entire tab for maintenance, upkeep, etc., an unacceptable financial burden for our citizens. Just a minor piece of information our Main Street Two–Lane enthusiast forgot to mention this past week.

But let’s move on from old news to what is now possible without breaking the bank. The good news is the state’s new willingness to work with cities; and together with Fort Lauderdale, the MPO, and Complete Streets planning, we stand a solid chance of seeing a joint plan for lane reductions, crosswalks, bike lanes, and more – a plan with a price tag not solely paid for by the residents of Wilton Manors. This is the type of planning, with solid financial responsibility, which can actually bring about the changes we want to see by 2018. Another possibility might be in the works, a plan between the state and the county to exchange certain roadways throughout Broward County. If this plays out, Wilton Drive would become a county road, giving our city much more leeway to implement the changes we all want to see happen. Planning for Wilton Drive is definitely looking solid for us to see major improvements once the next Blue Moon comes again in 2018.

Alas, the big challenge I see for 2018 is still parking, parking, parking.

The city is at a fork in the road and needs to choose. One road leads to small surface lots at various places around the Arts and Entertainment District, while the other road leads to investing in a municipal parking facility at the now empty corner of Wilton Drive at Hagen Park/City Hall. Recent city discussions have shown that moving ahead with another small surface lot with only minimum spaces would be very expensive and take over 40 years to recover cost.

A municipal structure with ground floor retail and parking levels above could be constructed while keeping the majority of the Hagen Park surface lot open during construction. Once completed, the surface lot would be then available for park expansion.

Yes, these are tough choices; but we need to take a step back, out of our comfort zone, and think about what we really need to do to bring about the changes we want to see by the next Blue Moon, 2018. It will be here before you know it.

Once my wandering mind came back down to the present, I realized that the sky had cleared and there, in all its glory, was the Blue Moon shining brightly, looking down on Wilton Manors.

Why? …..Cause life is just better here.

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